i'm not always like this -- it's something i become;
a terrible weakness in my nature, in my blood

What's wrong with you?

Everything, you want to say, everything and I'm going out of my mind and I don't know how to make it right and can you please help me, please fix me, please just make it all okay, I'll do anything, just --

Instead, you laugh it off, you make a joke, you lie and you lie and you lie until you can almost -- almost -- believe what you're saying. It'd be easy, it'd be good, it would feel good, to just... be okay. Like some kind of magic salve, you could just wish it all better and never have to explain it, never have to have that conversation, never sacrifice your pride for happiness, never have to --

It's all wishful thinking. It's what you do in the long hours between life and sleep, in the nights when you stare at your eyelids and wrap your arms around your chest and dream of better things. And, God, it feels good. You're supposed to hate this, supposed to hate the way you spend hours making up stories in your head, supposed to wish that you could sleep like normal people, but nothing about you is normal.

You dream, in these hours. You dream of princesses in towers, of knights on white steeds, of someone to hold you when you feel alone. And, slowly, you come to realize that these are all just dreams, and that they go away when sleep overtakes you, and when the alarm goes off, and when you go through the motions of your day. Slowly, you accept this fate.

It's so, so easy.

They think you're all right -- and sometimes, you are. Really, truly, all right -- sometimes. Sometimes, you can forget how it feels to cry until you can't breathe and collapse from exhaustion, never calming down, never relaxing, never being okay. Sometimes, you can convince yourself that your idle fancies are possible.

And then sometimes, you can't. And it's like a disease you can't get rid of, always coming back when you've just managed to feel human again, knocking you back, erasing the progress you make. You forget how it feels to laugh. You forget the sound of honesty, wrapped up again in the everything is okay, what are you talking about, I'm fine mantra you repeat every time your eyes threaten to give you away.

You become intimate with the taste of salt and lies. There's a kind of cold comfort in knowing that everyone is convinced of the exact opposite of truth, in knowing that you are alone. It's terrible, and it's lonely, and it's wrong -- but it's familiar. The way you curl up within yourself, it's something you know well. And you can believe, for a while, that this makes it all okay -- because you're used to this, you've been here before; you've crossed this bridge, you know it'll hold you.

There is a part of you, you know, that recognizes that this can't last. But it's working for now, right, and now is all you need. Now is all that matters.

The thing is -- the thing is, you know that this part passes. Like a woman going through childbirth for the second time, you know that if you just -- if you just hold out through the pain, through the tears, through the blood and the sweat and the anger and the emotions and the agony and the agony -- if you just make it through this moment, these hours, it'll go away. And it'll be so much sweeter later, because it's been so bad.

You don't know how long the night will be, and that's the scary part. You don't know how long it'll take to get better. How long you'll have to content yourself with the blankets and the dreams and the crushing insomnia. And you can't even promise yourself a wonderful ending to the story because you've never gotten that far -- it'll get better for a while, yes, but it's always looming on the horizon -- it's going to get bad again.

You dream of a day when you can tell the truth to all the people who care, when you can purge yourself of the disease that keeps creeping through your veins, when you don't have to crawl into yourself to survive. It helps; sometimes, it banishes the darkness for one -- more -- moment. The color of a star, the taste of happiness -- its shadow lingers long after it's gone, leaving you a light to chase, something to hold in the middle of the night. I can get through this.

It's a lie. You know it's a lie, and you willingly believe it, the same way everyone else believes you when you insist that everything is okay -- you'll lie to yourself if that'll get you to morning.

You become good at doing what it takes to survive. Because this is who you are -- this is what you do.

What's wrong with you?

Nothing, you say, because it's easier than the truth, because it will suffice for now, and because now is all you have.

Nothing, you say.